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Daylong Siege Ends as Police Trick Gunman

August 26, 1986|DAVID REYES and ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writers

An armed 45-year-old man with a history of mental illness barricaded himself inside his Anaheim home for nearly 24 hours and withstood a heavy barrage of tear gas before police lured him out Monday afternoon with a pack of cigarettes, police said.

The cigarettes, tossed onto the walk in front of his house, brought Frank Benjamin Kovaletz--dubbed "Crazy Frankie" by his neighbors--outside long enough for police to arrest him.

Neighbors described constant, sometimes violent, family arguments at the home in the 1800 block of Tedmar Avenue.

"It's just routine," said MaryAnn Rolph, 45, who lives across the street. "You know how things become commonplace. You see cops across the street and say, 'Crazy Frankie is at it,' "

Informed Police

The incident began about 3 p.m. Sunday, when Kovaletz's father, Frank Sr., left home to inform police of his son's erratic behavior.

Kovaletz briefly kept his mother, Anne, inside the house, police said, but released her unhurt.

Investigators said the younger Kovaletz, a diabetic and an amputee who wears a prosthetic foot, apparently was distraught over a pending court appearance on a drunk-driving charge. Detective Dwain Briggs said the suspect's mother said her son was "going to go to court and shoot them all."

Police said the barricaded Kovaletz fired about 24 rounds from a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle, hitting cars and houses. There was one exchange of gunfire with police at about 4 a.m. Monday in which Officer Richard Raulston was struck by flying glass. The injured officer later returned to duty.

Water Cut Off

While special weapons team members watched from nearby rooftops, police cut off water and electricity and tried to coax Kovaletz out by phone.

"He said if we wanted him, we would have to come inside," said one negotiator, Officer Steve Stempniak. "And if we came inside, he would kill us. He said he had nothing to lose."

Several times, Kovaletz requested cigarettes, and police tossed them to him, a few at a time. Finally, at about 2:50 p.m., police tossed a full pack. When the gunman crawled out, an officer fired a shotgun blast to distract Kovaletz and others grabbed him.

Kovaletz was taken to the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center for psychiatric observation.

Police said Kovaletz withstood the effects of 46 tear gas canisters. Kovaletz later told officers that he breathed through an oxygen mask used by his mother. But police speculated that, like about 20% of the population, he might simply be immune to the gas.

Resentment Voiced

While no one was seriously hurt, neighbors, many of whom were evacuated, expressed resentment toward authorities and mental health professionals for allowing a "revolving-door" policy to exist for mental patients.

"This little saga goes on about twice a month," Rolph said. "He has threatened people . . . with a gun. He fights with his mother constantly.

"He is the type of person you don't know when or what he's going to do next. I have children, and I would like to live in a peaceful neighborhood."

Police confirmed that Kovaletz has repeatedly been arrested as a "5150," referring to a section of the state Welfare and Institutions Code that allows police to place mentally unbalanced individuals in a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours of observation.

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